World Cup Wisdom

career coaching, career change, find work you love


Disclaimer: I personally guarantee that this article will not waffle on about football (too much).  To get regular updates from Less Ordinary Living, click here to sing up.

Love it or loathe it, everyone has been talking about the World Cup.

The adventure of football on a new continent, the impact on South Africa and its people, the endless drone of the Vuvuzela, the excitement (if you’re that way inclined) of the games.

For me, I’ve been fascinated by the implications of this global melting pot for how to live life in the 21st Century, so here goes:

1) Teamwork trumps talent

The French national team imploded under the African sun. We had sulks, feuds, players going on strike, and even a player getting sent home for insurrection (top tip: don’t call your boss something unrepeatable in front of all your colleagues).

On paper, the French team is littered with some of the most skilled individuals around.  They should have easily qualified for the knock-out stages, yet they flopped in all their games.  Now they are on their way home to Paris – flying cattle class.

This group of 23 individuals ended up in rival factions, fighting each other and their manager.  On the pitch, they wouldn’t even pass the ball to each other.  The substitutes refused to sit on the bench and sulked off to stand behind the goal.  In short, zero teamwork, or desire to sacrifice for the greater good.

Le Flop Francais shows the importance of teamwork, being interdependent with others, collaborating and caring about those around you.  These elements combine to create something much greater than the sum of individual parts.

2. It’s not how old you are – It’s how good you are

career coaching, career change, find work you love

Viva Blanco!

Cuauhtémoc Blanco – Mexican legend – 37 years old.  By football standards he should be in the great retirement home in the sky dribbling on about his glory days to anyone unlucky enough to get stuck with him.

This guy couldn’t beat any of Less Ordinary Living’s readers in a race to the post box and has a pretty ample beer belly.

Yet, Blanco has inspired the Mexicans to qualification with a series of cameo substitute appearances and even knocked in a vital penalty goal along the  way.

In a game obsessed with fitness and strength, Blanco uses his brain and acute positional sense to do his talking.  He refuses to believe that his time is up and is confounding his critics with his great performances.

Anyone who has ever written themselves off as too old to try something new or make a change should take Blanco to heart.  He shows that with application and playing to your strengths, almost anything is possible.

3. Cheats never prosper

Keidar Keida and Kaka.

Any idea what I’m talking about?

Kaka is the Brazillian wunderkind who is steering his team through the knock-out stages.  Keider Keida is the Ivory Coast midfielder who conspired to have Kaka sent off from their game.

Kaka backed into Keida and bumped his upper chest gently with his elbow.  Keida hit the floor like he’d been hit by a volley of machine gun bullets clutching his face.  He preceded to writhe in agony.

The referee, not seeing the incident put two and two together and made 27. He brandished a red card and sent Kaka packing.

The catch?  In the 21st Century we have multiple TV cameras recording everything and replaying it in super slow motion.  The cheating was obvious and the world saw Keida’s deception in full.  Brazil went on to win the match comfortably and Keida’s reputation is in tatters.

In life, integrity is vital in every action.  Any attempt to cheat, deceive or generally be dishonest tends to get found out eventually.  Thanks to Kaka and Keida for reminding us of that.

4. Take nothing for granted

Espana – glorious European champions.  World number 1.  In more than 30 matches leading up to the World Cup, only defeated once.  Dripping with talent and playing expansive attacking and goal laden football.

Switzerland – dour, unheralded and no record of success.  27th best team in the world.  Patchy recent form.  No star players.

Spain were expected to wipe the floor with everyone they played and march to the final.  Switzerland are well known for poor performances at major tournaments.

Spain 0 – Switzerland 1

In life, nothing is certain and making assumptions can be dangerous.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. Practice is the way to master change

career coaching, career change, find work you love

The roundest ball ever... who knew!

One of the stories of the World Cup is the Jabulani ball.  Years in development, this is the roundest (hard to believe I know) and most aerodynamic ball ever created.  So what?

Well in the first few matches, this extra slick ball kept flying like a leaping salmon up a waterfall.  The players ballooned passes, crosses and shots miles further than planned.

After years of training with and playing with balls that had more drag and were less round, this change put the players of their stroke.

The response – practice, practice, practice.  The teams all went away with the new ball and worked like mad to master it.

By the second round of games, everything looked pretty much back to normal.  Successful adjustments were made (except sadly by the England team).

The bottom line.  When you are trying to make a change, or faced by change the key is practice.  Building up the skills to develop and adapt is vital in life.  The players used their years of intense practice and experience, and a short burst of hard work to adapt to the new ball.

When you face new challenges, learn the sustainable skills needed to overcome them and succeed.

Over to You

What have you enjoyed about the World Cup?

What lessons have you learned?

Photo Credit: DundasFC (Flickr Creative Commons), Celso Flores (Flickr Creative Commons), Shine 2010 (Flickr Creative Commons)

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  1. Phil
    June 24, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    What’s your take on the World Cup? Any lessons to share?

  2. June 24, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil,
    Thanks for the World Cup 101 it was really enlightening for me. I’m pretty oblivious to the goings on of the World Cup, but agree that sport always offers great life lessons. I always appreciate the athletes who have trained their mind and body and are at the apex of their game (my favorite is basketball). We all admire athletes because they are the highest and fullest creative expression of themselves.

    I love the examples you cited above because it is a testament to the power of single-pointed thinking. The team that is most aligned will come out on top. I had no idea about the Mexican player or the new ball. Thanks for sharing!
    .-= rob´s last blog ..Make the growth choice =-.

  3. June 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Honestly, Phil? I haven’t watched any World Cup. Not big on spectator sports. So, I will get the drift of it through this post.

    You’ve observed the good, the bad and the ugly! when you put groups of folks together to challenge other groups of folks, all sorts of behaviors crop up.

    I’m most drawn to #4, take nothing for granted. That’s a great way to approach life. It’s not over until it’s over. The underdog always has the psychological advantage. S/he is willing to take more risks, to go to the extremes, to fail.

    Me thinks you could write a book with all these rules you’ve been posting …

    .-= Giulietta the Muse´s last blog ..Why don’t more adults play with abandon? =-.

  4. June 25, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil – Well, don’t know much about the world cup but I loved this post, and how you seamlessly took each experience and turned it into a metaphor for life. Those reminders are everywhere about the important stuff: teamwork, not getting hung up on age, integrity, letting go assumptions, and practice. So it’s wonderful that you’ve taken the world cup and culled it for such wisdom.
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: The Four Healing Salves =-.

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